The Defend Bob Dylan Rally!


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October 7, 1965, Vol. X, No. 51

Dylan in October

By Jack Newfield

They booed Bob Dylan at Newport in July, they insulted him at Forest Hills in August, but last Friday at Carnegie Hall they screamed for more of his “rock folk” poetry.

“I didn’t think you would like it,” he said shyly before doing the first encore anyone could remember him doing.

The concert was almost a Defend Bob Dylan Rally. The house was filled with his most passionate followers. There was hardly a sound during the first half of the program, as one after another, with few introductions, Dylan sang his poems called folk-songs. And it was, in fact, like a poetry reading at the 92nd Street YMHA. Future generations of college literature students, I think, will be taught Dylan, and his private symbols and allegories explained. They will discuss his obsession with death, his hostility toward women, and his hypnotic rhythm the way they now discuss aspects of Carl Sandburg and Vachel Lindsay.

The second half of the concert was devoted to Dylan’s amplified band, consisting of electronic bass, guitar, organ, piano, and drums. At the beginning there were a few boos, perhaps a conditioned response from the previous concerts.

The songs were all familiar: “Ain’t Gonna Work on Maggie’s Farm.” “Mr. Jones.” “It Ain’t Me, Babe.” And on this third try, it became clear he had sold his new style to his fans. After each tune the cheers grew deeper and wilder. And Dylan, tense and frail, his diction better and his voice more magnetic than ever before, was clearly enjoying his vindication.

At the end of the Forest Hills concert, many of Dylan’s young fans stood and booed. But Friday after his final number, “Like a Rolling Stone,” they clapped and cheered and dozens of them rushed to the stage screaming “more, more, more.” And Dylan, smiling that little boy smile, came out of the wings for his encore while his fans, 12 and 14 and 16 years old, sat mesmerized in the aisle at the foot of the stage.

A new cultural tradition is evolving in America. It is the opposite of High Culture; perhaps it is more significant and certainly is is more vital. Seymour Krim once called it “the culture of the streets.” Charlie Parker exemplified it in the ’40s, Allen Ginsberg and Lenny Bruce and William Burroughs contributed to it. And so too does Dylan with his fusion of symbolic poetry and a new kind of folk music.

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